Saturday, February 11, 2006

CONVENTION MEMORIES

I've been watching CPAC's coverage of the Nova Scotia PC party's leadership convention to choose the replacement for Premier John Hamm. Reporters are calling it a boring, humdrum race. Well, their idea of an exciting race is when you have total party disunity and backstabbings and stuff, so of course they're disappointed. I think that if they actually bother to cover these things properly they'd find these leadership races to be quite interesting. But yeah, this race is pretty civil from the looks of it.

Reminds me of the times when I would attend political conventions. I've attended three political conventions: one at the national level and two provincial ones. The most exciting one I was at was the 2002 Ontario provincial leadership convention that was won by Ernie Eves. I was there as a Tony Clement supporter and it was clear all week that the Clement campaign was going off the rails. The night of the candidate speeches, we failed to even fill our section of the hall with Clement supporters- ours was two-thirds empty! Everyone else had a full section of people cheering and waving signs, even dead-last Chris Stockwell! That was a sure sign we were sunk. Our people had been going around trying to convince the media that we were still in second place but that convention was the moment of truth for the campaign about how badly we were doing.

Anyway the next day at the convention I arrived to find screaming Toronto Star headlines that Clement was about to do a deal with Ernie Eves. And I was furious. I was furious because I hadn't been told about this, and had been given marching orders to go out into the convention hall and round up the few people we had in there for Tony Clement. Besides, our people had gone around bashing Eves all campaign and saying we needed a younger, more vigorous leader who had ideas, because that's what won elections. Yet here we were about to turn around and do a deal to put him in!

Anyway, sure enough, Clement comes in third on the first ballot. His main advisors then went and huddled in private while I stood in line to vote for Clement on the second ballot. As the line was going in to vote we got the word that Clement had kicked the bucket and had gone over to Eves! I immediately put on a Jim Flaherty badge and disgustedly cast my second-ballot vote for Flaherty, then I walked into the convention hall and shook Flaherty's hand on national television. I was ticked off mainly because people had assured me no deals were being done and that the rumors were all a pack of lies. But I was also mad because I felt we weren't being true to our own line of bull by supporting Eves. I felt Flaherty was the only candidate other than Clement who had put out some actual ideas during the campaign. Clement's slogan was "Ideas Win". So I felt the only way I could be true to the line of bull we had been putting out during the campaign was to go vote for Flaherty in the runoff, even though I didn't agree with all his policies. So that's what happened. In fact, I wasn't the only one who went over to Flaherty- a ton of people from our campaign team actually refused to go to Eves and went over to endorse Flaherty instead.

Interesting what ultimately happened. The Eves government went on to be defeated, and eventually that forced both Tony Clement and Jim Flaherty to leave provincial politics, and here they are federal cabinet ministers! So my votes that day went to two guys who eventually ended up in the federal government! You never know what will happen in politics or at these conventions.

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